|AFP lying about abduction of two UP students - CA|
|Written by Dabet Castañeda|
|Sunday, 10 June 2007 23:24|
The Appellate Court gave contradicting views on the case of the two missing UP students and a farmer in Bulacan who were abducted on June 26, 2006. While it dismissed the writ of habeas corpus case against officials of the Northern Luzon Command (NolCom) of the Philippine Army, the Court of Appeals said that the soldier-respondents were “not telling the whole truth as they (the soldiers) appeared evasive in their declarations.”
University of the Philippines (UP) students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, and farmer Manuel Merino were reported abducted last year while they were doing research in Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy town, province of Bulacan.
The families of Cadapan and Empeno filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus before the Supreme Court on July 17, 2006 against Maj. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, (Ret.) Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac, Arnel Enriquez and Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson. The petition was referred by the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeals on July 19.
After a series of hearings at the CA, it also found the soldiers to be “in denial or lacked knowledge” on matters they were supposed to know in their respective areas of responsibility. “Worse, their testimonies do not appear to jibe with one another,” the CA decision read.
When she testified in court on Sept 20, Samson, executive officer of the Mercado Detachment in Hagonoy, Bulacan, said she had no knowledge of the abduction that took place on June 26, 2006 despite being deployed at the said military detachment from May 31 to July 14 of the same year. This is contrary to the August 7 testimony of Boac, an officer of the 703rd Infantry Brigade under the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and commanding officer of Task Force Malolos, that he ordered all his commanders, including Samson, to give him an account of the said abduction. Task Force Malolos is the Special Operations Team (SOT) of the 703rd Infantry Brigade operating in the area where the three were abducted.
But Boac contradicted himself in a later testimony.
In his Sept. 20 testimony, he said he did not conduct any investigation nor was he ordered to investigate. He said he only got information about the abduction from the local Philippine National Police (PNP) unit in Hagonoy. This is contradictory to the testimony of Palparan (Boac’s superior ) on the same day who said he ordered Boac to investigate the abduction which, Palparan said, he only heard from media reports. Palparan even added that he received ground reports from Boac’s team regarding the abduction.
When asked if they had written reports on the case, Boac also seemed to have lied. In his testimony on Aug. 7, he said they have printed Daily Operations Reports (DOR). But in his Sept. 20 testimony, he said they had no written DORs.
Boac also testified in court on Sept 20 that he did not receive any police report on the abduction because there were no entries in the police blotter. However, the CA said the petitioners have provided the court with a copy of the police blotter dated June 26, 2006, 3:25 p.m. regarding the abduction of Cadapan, Empeno and Merino.
In its findings, the CA also said there is “strong evidence” that Merino was abducted by military men. The court cited the testimony of Alberto Martinez who was abducted June 28 in the same village where Cadapan, Empeno and Merino were abducted two days earlier.
In his testimony, Martinez said Merino was used as a guide by soldiers who took him in custody and brought him to a military detachment in Mercado, a neighboring village of San Miguel.
The CA also said the military’s custody of Merino was further proven by another witness Oscar Leuterio who testified in court that he saw his friend, Merino, brought by soldiers to his detention area. Leuterio, a security guard of a mining company in Dona Remedios Trinidad town, also in Bulacan, was also abducted by soldiers on April 17, 2006. In an interview with Bulatlat December 2006, Leuterio said he was detained for five months in a safe house inside Fort Magsaysay, the headquarters of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (ID PA) in the municipality of Laur, province of Nueva Ecija.
Despite its findings, the court concluded that it had “no indubitable evidence that the three missing persons are in the custody of the military.”
“We have no recourse but to dismiss the petition,” the court said. It said this ruling is in line with the previous decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Ngaya-an v. Balweg which states, “If the respondents are not detaining nor restraining the applicants or the person in whose behalf the petition for habeas corpus is filed, the petition should be dismissed.”
However, the court said that since the respondents gave “unsatisfactory explanations,” the court ordered that further investigation be conducted by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the PNP.
As the court dismissed the petition for habeas corpus, new witnesses have come out to say that Cadapan, who was two months pregnant when she was abducted, had been sighted thrice in the Central Luzon region. By all indications, this case may be headed for a major twist. Bulatlat